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May June 2020 Marina World

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The magazine for the marina industry

Digital transformation

Digital transformation during the global crisis by Idan Cohen Let’s start with a quick question: is COVID-19 the catalyst in driving the biggest digital transformation in marine history? Most marinas are now facing the same needs and challenges and are asking themselves the tough questions: how do we continue to operate, provide exceptional customer experience, generate revenue and enable our marina to operate during and after the current global crisis? The new environment which materialised out of the COVID-19 pandemic generates a new set of needs. As of the beginning of May 2020, recreational boating activity is still kept on suspension, being perceived by the majority of the regulating institutions as non-essential travel. As such, it is not expected to be among the first sectors to be restored to full operational capacity. Moreover, the new reality creates new challenges for the gates of entry to the countries. As one of the measures to contain the spread of the pandemic is to monitor the entrances to the country and trace the route of potential infectors, the need that may arise in reopening the borders will be thorough documentation of the travellers’ history, health conditions and plans at the destination. Marinas that are currently servicing residents and visitors in lock-down are faced with a new reality. The communication and interaction with them have changed significantly, as have the number of necessary facilities and essential services. As Martinho Fortunato, CEO of Marlagos Marina and vice chairman of the Portuguese Marina Association, puts it, “We have to keep the operations going. We have close to 90% occupancy right now and have changed the way we are working. The relationship between the marina, the clients and how the information is spread is changing. We need to inform residents with updates every day. In the future, we will have platforms where at all times residents will have all the information. We are working to get there.” INTELLIGENT MARINA SYSTEMS The technology and solutions that seemed like a futuristic endeavour that would take years to design and implement are now essential to cope with the existing crisis and with the day after. International travel will involve extensive reporting and testing protocols, requiring both the points of origin and of destination to communicate and coordinate information with each other. Passengers may even need to go through instant testing procedures at the gateways, just like the events of 9/11 created entire new protocols for international travel security. National governments from their side would like to know, above any doubt, that anyone they are letting in will not provoke another infection outbreak which, as was witnessed, can send entire cities into lockdowns. Thus, they will impose strict regulations and inspections on any traffic entering their borders, by all means - air, land and sea. Any gateway which does not comply with the strict requirements may not be approved for operation or reopening. The pandemic forces every country to close or restrict access to its borders and define regulations that reflect the unique habits, limitations and cultures of its citizens. Marinas that wish to operate will be required to carefully monitor the recreational boating traffic that passes through and will have to comply with numerous standards of information sharing, visitor monitoring, data collection and coordination with multiple fellow destinations of origin. If the industry aspires to be among the sectors that are trusted to operate, it must prove that it possesses the capacity to monitor itself. As governments are not rushing to release sectors that are not seen as essential, in the fear of a second wave of outbreak, the recreational boating industry will have to prove that the balance between the health concerns and the economic implications of the lockdown will be tipped in the right direction through risk mitigation. The outdated practices in the recreational boating sector, along with the expanding needs discussed here, create both a challenge and an opportunity. The wide array of estimated requirements can serve as a crucial catalyzer for the entire industry to evolve and go through longoverdue processes. Recently the concern of public health in many places is starting to give way to the concern for the economic future of the countries. Governments start to feel the pain of the continuous lockdown and the paralysis of economies. In many countries, the curve of the pandemic is flattening and governments must start concentrating on ways to rescue collapsing sectors while also going long distances to survive a sharp recession. This current state of emergency can lead to necessary reforms, killing two birds with one stone. The modernisation process will both address government limitations on international travel and optimise the way boating and marinas are managed and supervised. When the world is weathering a significant economic blow and facing a severe recession, optimisation of industries and resources is not only recommended, it is essential. This can be done only through innovation, collaboration and communication. Our industry must work together to return to operate quickly in a safe, healthy, economical and secure way. Let’s start now. Idan Cohen is chairman of the Marine Innovation Association, a full member at ICOMIA, and CEO of Pick a Pier, an innovative technology company that is creating a global standard for service-oriented and sustainable recreational maritime travel. - May/June 2020 51

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